September 24, 2013, 2:08 PM — Will Apple Unify OS X and iOS?
There's some interesting speculation in a column at Forbes about Apple preparing to unify OS X and iOS into one operating system. The columnist uses the 64-bit A7 chip as part of the groundwork for a merger of Apple's mobile and desktop operating systems.
The architecture of 64-bit apps on OSX has a huge amount of similarity to 64-bit iOS, which at the very least will allow a significant common code base between the two platforms.
If I was going to do some far out speculation, Apple could be in a position to unify iOS and Mac OSX in early 2016. Not just the look and feel, not just the shared notification, PIM data, or cloud services, but the whole smash. Having one platform that runs across the desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone portfolio.
The A7 chip would be the first foot soldier in this scenario. It will take time to deploy the A7, but when the time is right, the CPU’s will be ready to have everyone update the OS over the air, on launch day, for Apple’s great unification project.
Hmm. What to make of this? I suppose it's a distinct possibility. There have been rumblings already in the media about superphones like Ubuntu's Edge that offer the ability to operate as a mobile and desktop device.
The Edge never made it to market, but it embodied the idea of one device that could be a mobile device and a desktop computer (albeit by dual booting Android and Ubuntu, which is not quite the same as Apple combining OS X and iOS).
On the other hand, there's a column at PCMag that pretty much argues the opposite. Instead the columnist believes that Apple will stick with Intel based processors for years to come, and that iOS and OS X will simply complement each other as they do today.
Although this is a plausible idea and could possibly happen some day, the most recent release of its updated OS X Mountain Lion suggests that it will not happen any time soon. The new OS, which brings a lot of the greatest features and apps of iOS 5 to Mac OS X, actually makes the two operating systems even more alike than ever before. Each OS, however, still serves a purpose and these enhanced cross-OS functions make it possible for both operating systems to coexist and complement each other for some time.
In fact, I think we are seeing more of a pattern in which OS X will continue to harness the robust power of Intel's Core architecture. Intel's forthcoming 3D chip architecture could perpetuate Moore's law in ways that would still make sense for the Mac OS to mine the Intel chipset for years ahead. I have a good handle on Intel's roadmap and I don't see anything coming from ARM in the next two to three years that could match what Intel will have. It is much more likely that Apple will continue to use Intel for many years to come and thus will need two distinct operating systems to meet the needs of both sets of customers.
I think the second columnist probably has it right. I can't see Apple blending the two operating systems together for a long time, if ever. It certainly seems unlikely that they would do it by 2016.
In a Brighthand article, a former Apple marketing exec and Pearl programmer thinks that there are serious user interface issues that would possibly anger many Mac customers.
"There are just too many professional and technical UNIX users out there who love Macs to do anything that would upset them. A premature push into a merger, even if technically possible, has UI (user interface) implications that many customers just don't want to deal with. Maybe it's better to let time, technology, and the sales of iOS devices naturally lead the way rather than trying to force the issue," he said.
I'm inclined to agree with his comments. Remember what happened when Microsoft made the jump to Windows 8? They glommed a mobile interface onto a desktop operating system and angered many Windows users. It was far too much, far too soon for users that were used to previous Windows user interfaces.
Let's hope Apple takes heed of Microsoft's experience and treads very carefully and very slowly in blending iOS and OS X together. If they make the jump too soon, it could be as big a disaster for them as Windows 8 was for Microsoft.
What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.